My name is Bob L. and my recovery date is May 31, 2018. My journey has unique details, but the gist of it you have heard a thousand times before. I am the oldest child of a large family and was raised by two loving and supportive parents. Unfortunately, addiction exists throughout both my mother’s and father’s families. I was certainly aware of this as a child and at one point was dead-set to avoid such a horrific trap. LOL, life had other ideas.
My life in recovery, with all its challenges, is wonderful. I am an active participant in life and am surrounded by a loving family that supports me. While I was raised in a large family with five siblings and have a wife and children, my addiction was a lonely world. Fortunately my life in recovery is completely different.
I am an important part of my family’s life as well as an integral part of my recovery network. My recovery network is vitally important to my life now, it is a true wonder how I existed without it. Because of the critical nature of my recovery network, this will be the subject of this piece.
Like many, I got to this place slowly, often reluctantly. About two-thirds of my way through a Mountainside Intensive Outpatient (“IOP”) program, I was finally willing to attain the goal I spoke of regularly, to attend a recovery meeting. Naturally, I showed up moments before it was scheduled and found a seat along the wall, allowing for a quick exit once the meeting was over. I felt less than, ashamed and disgusted with myself over why I had come to this low point. I just wanted to feel better about myself and my life. I heard about the strength of the community, but I truly was a reluctant warrior.
I was pleased with my accomplishment of finally attending a meeting, but I also realized that I needed to keep coming despite my reluctance. Slowly, almost ploddingly, I began to attend more meetings. Much of it seemed foreign and repetitive, but I kept coming. Eventually, my attention span improved and I was able to listen. Moreover, I began to come a little earlier (gotta get a better parking space LOL), and even helped after the meeting cleaning up. This of course led to encounters with the “regulars.”
I found them kind and engaging, despite my aversion to anyone getting too involved in my life. To try to become involved, I began counting days, a process I found difficult. Sure, I understood the theory, they just wanted to get to know me, but my reluctance made my arm heavy. Lifting it in the air to expose my addiction was so difficult at the beginning. I also knew I was supposed to get a sponsor, my latest IOP goal. I began to look to regulars that when I listened to their shares I could identify with. I also knew I had to begin to call other members who had significant sobriety time.
The phone was heavy, VERY heavy. I grabbed the phone list of meeting attendees and tried to find someone I could call who wouldn’t admonish me as to why I took so long to call. Finally, after a bit of time, I found a person I thought I could safely reach out to. With abundant trepidation, I dialed the phone. He answered and I introduced myself. He could not have been kinder, not more understanding. Needless to say I was RELIEVED. Just recounting these details brings those feelings back in abundance.
Weeks later, I thought I had found a potential sponsor. Being ever the scaredy-cat, I just began to sit next to him at meetings. I think I did this for three weeks before finally asking him to be my sponsor. Note, I don’t recommend my ridiculously protracted process. Trying to be a good sponsee, I said that I’d call him every day—I did and I continue to do so for four years! Of course over that time our relationship has evolved. Needless to say he remains a critical part of my recovery.
Fortunately for me, unwillingly for a long while, I considered doing things that were uncomfortable to me. I began to share my feelings, often in exceedingly brief fashion. One thing I noticed was that sharing my discomfort made me feel better. I began to understand the notion that a problem shared was a problem halved. I also began to increasingly have conversations with other “regulars.” These conversations often resulted in new suggestions and perspectives I found critically helpful in my remaining sober.
Those conversations lead to informally grabbing coffee or heading to a diner. Those moments lead to friendships I found instrumental to overcoming the awkwardness of living as a sober man, something previously I was quite simply uncomfortable with doing. I regularly reach out to a small group of friends, all of whom are in recovery. Sometimes via text, often times a call, sometimes I have something important to get off my chest, but frequently it is humdrum, just a check in. I cannot tell you how important even the most mundane contact has become.
The real proof comes during moments of real stress when I possess a regular voice, someone who knows me, to reach out to. During the past year I have broadened this approach with meeting “the boys” for breakfast at a local diner. It provides an avenue to discuss matters small or large that are going on in their lives or mine. I find both to be critical experiences in my recovery. No longer do I need to find relief in substances that leave me empty and despairing. The impact is enormous. I am able to go through life as a sober, contributing member of the world. A marked difference from my former self.
Moreover, it allows me to be truly available to my family and friends outside to the recovery community. There is little doubt that being a “part of” is one of the most critical elements of my recovery. Building the network was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it was truly among the most satisfying.